Preparations to activate the next phase of our Back-to-Office (BTO) plan - Joint Medical Service (JMS) guidance to all UN personnel

21 Sep 2021

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UNON Joint Medical service (JMS) has been carefully monitoring the COVID-19 situation in Kenya and its work has focused on ensuring the health and well-being of UN personnel and dependents.  

Key activities include health awareness (via email broadcasts, virtual talks, and other platforms), facilitating access to testing and treatment and providing direct support to UN personnel, dependents, and agencies. JMS continues to monitor all patients in hospitals, hospital bed availability, access to COVID-19 testing and public health guidance issued by the Government of Kenya.

Several important developments are now coming to the fore as we start our phased return to the workplace.

 

1. COVID-19 infection rates in Kenya and Nairobi

 

Kenya continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic and is now emerging from a 4th wave of COVID-19 infections that peaked in July-August 2021. The previous waves occurred in July 2020, November 2020 and April 2021, respectively. In recent weeks, the reported national COVID-19 positivity rate has appeared to trend downwards as have the numbers of COVID-19 patients in the hospitals frequented by UN families. Time will tell whether this will be the last of the severe surges, but we are keeping the situation under careful review and will not hesitate to act if the need arises.

 

2. COVID-19 situation within the UN community in Kenya and Nairobi

 

During the 4th wave, JMS observed a marked decline of new COVID-19 infections amongst UN personnel and dependents as compared to the peak of the 3rd wave in April 2021 and the previous waves in July and November 2020.  This decline was not mirrored by the national data.  Even more encouraging has been the significant decline in the number of UN personnel and dependents hospitalized for severe COVID-19. We believe that this important development is directly attributable to success of the on-going UN COVID-19 vaccination programme, graciously supported by the Government of Kenya.

 

3. UN COVID-19 vaccination programme

 

Since the COVID-19 vaccination exercise began at the UN Gigiri complex in March 2020, more than 18,000 doses of the AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines have been administered to various groups including UN personnel, members of the Diplomatic Corps, INGO’s, dependents, retirees, contractors, and the household members of UN personnel. The vaccination exercise has been undertaken by JMS with strong support and collaboration of the Ministry of Health (MOH). Concerted vaccination efforts have similarly been undertaken for UN personnel in the Kakuma and Dadaab field offices.

The expansion of vaccination to the various categories listed above was aimed at creating a ‘safe bubble’ of vaccinated persons who can safely interact at work and at home.

A quick survey conducted by JMS in July 2021, showed most UN personnel had heeded the call to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, with an uptake rate at that time of 85% for the first dose and 60% for the second. Since then we estimate that the full vaccination rate has surpassed the 80% mark for UN staff, other categories of personnel and the contractors based on the UN Complex (i.e. they have received both doses of a two-dose vaccine regimen). The vaccination exercise continues daily without interruption and staff, dependents and other personnel are free to walk in during normal working hours and be vaccinated without the need for an advance booking.  Personnel who have not been fully vaccinated are urged to get a shot as soon as possible.

 

4. Back to office (phase 3) - what to expect

 

While falling positivity rates and high vaccination rates are important, effective control of the spread of COVID-19 will also require personal adherence to strict health and safety precautions. As we return to the workplace, you will note that several changes have taken place to enhance the health and safety of all persons accessing the complex. Some of the health precautions that you can expect include:

 

i) Entry screening

 

  • All persons coming into the UN Complex for work should feel in good health.  Personnel should keep away from the workplace if they feel unwell, and instead contact their manager and JMS for further guidance. JMS recommends that all UN personnel and visitors observe their health closely and check their temperature before coming to the office. At the UN Pavilion entrance, a thermal camera has been installed to monitor the temperature of all incoming persons with a trigger alarm to UNDSS and JMS when a high temperature is recorded (i.e. above 37.5oC).
  • By swiping your grounds pass to gain access into the workplace, you are self-declaring that, to the best of your knowledge, you do not have any symptoms of COVID-19 and that you have not knowingly been in close contact with a person who has COVID-19 in the previous 14 days.
  • Additional screening tools may be deployed from time to time to support the recognition of COVID-19 symptoms, COVID-19 exposure or COVID-19 diagnosis to determine who must keep away from the workplace.

 

ii) Reporting your COVID-19 vaccination status

 

  • Further to the email broadcast by the UNON Director General below, staff, personnel and contractors who have not been fully vaccinated will not be returning to the complex at this stage of our BTO plan and shall continue to work from home.  Staff and other categories of personnel will be required to show proof of full vaccination in order to access the complex.  In lieu of a vaccine, staff will on an exceptional basis be able to gain access to the complex if they are able to show a recent negative COVID-19 test certificate (administered within 72 hours) or a certificate of recovery from COVID-19.   This means that all UN personnel are required to report their vaccination status. The information you provide will be subject to validation by the UNON Joint Medical Service for accuracy and validated information will be shared with UNDSS in order for them to grant you access to the complex.
  • JMS strongly discourages un-vaccinated personnel from coming into the UN Complex. However, should this be exceptionally required, such as to visit the JMS clinic, access may be granted by JMS subject to limits in terms of areas these individuals can access.  For their own protection, and that of their fully vaccinated colleagues, they will not be allowed into enclosed shared spaces such as meeting rooms, enclosed offices and cafeterias.
  • The vaccination declaration is to be made to UNON and the management of your respective UN entities.  A designated electronic platform suitable for this purpose has been set up. Further information regarding the deployment and use of the platform will be shared following the distribution of this email.  Personnel are encouraged to comply with the reporting requirements as soon as the tool is deployed. This will ensure that adequate security access arrangements can be put in place ahead of their return to the complex.  The UNON COVID-19 vaccination reporting tool can be accessed at the following link: COVID-19 Vaccination reporting
  • Fully vaccinated UN personnel will have their UN grounds pass enabled for access into the campus following the validation of the vaccination status via the UNON electronic platform. This system applies a simplified verification process for all those people who were vaccinated at JMS either through the Government of Kenya’s Chanjo or the UN’s Everbridge platform. This will be a one-off exercise that will free you from having to carry evidence of vaccination when accessing the campus.
  • If you were not vaccinated at JMS, the UNON electronic platform will require you to upload evidence of your full vaccination through the electronic platform and await confirmation of its validation. An email response from JMS will be sent to you when your vaccination status has been confirmed.
  • Personnel who are not able to be vaccinated for various reasons, medical or personal, and who need to temporarily access the campus, will be provided a special exemption linked to a workplace safe accommodation request. The process will require that they contact JMS directly with the documented valid justification for such exemption (e.g. a medical report from a physician).

 

iii) Compliance with COVID-19 prevention measures at the UN workplace

 

  • JMS reiterates the crucial importance of consistent adherence to the recommended COVID-19 prevention measures within the UN Complex including mandatory use of face masks, physical distancing and hand hygiene.
  • All persons will be required to wear face masks properly and at all times – covering both the mouth and the nose. Face masks will be required in all shared public spaces. Exceptions to this requirement will apply in certain situations (e.g when having a meal, when one is alone in an enclosed office, or walking alone outside in the grounds.
  • The minimum physical distance requirement when fully masked and fully vaccinated will be 1 meter.  Kindly ensure that when you are within the workplace, you consistently maintain this minimum distance.
  • It is important to maintain hand hygiene by regularly using alcohol hand sanitizer rub, or regularly washing your hands with soap and water.
  • Always maintain good cough etiquette by using a tissue or handkerchief when coughing or sneezing or covering your mouth with your elbow.
  • Stay at home when you have any COVID-19 symptoms and inform JMS of these symptoms.
  • When commuting to work whenever possible avoid crowded public transport buses or matatus. In all vehicles strive to maintain preventive measures during your commute (e.g. mask wearing, keeping the windows open for ventilation and using hand sanitizer before and after embarkation).
  • More information on preventive measures can be found by accessing video at this link.

 

iv) Reporting a COVID-19 positive test diagnosis

 

  • All UN personnel who test positive for COVID-19 are required to report their COVID-19 test result to JMS as soon as they become aware of the result. Reporting test results can be by phone, email or by utilizing the EarthMed Portal. JMS contact information can be found at the bottom of this message.
  • Only personnel from the following entities have access to the EarthMed Portal, and can opt to report their positive test diagnosis status on the portal – UN secretariat, UNICEF, IAEA, WIPO, UNDP, UN WOMEN, UNFPA, ITC, CTBTO, UNIDO, UNU.

 

5. JMS BTO support

 

i) General support

 

  • As we transition back to the workplace, JMS will collaborate with other stakeholders in the implementation of the BTO plan. This means that JMS will work with designated health and safety champions from all UN entities to support their implementation of safe infection prevention practices and contact tracing in cases of positive COVID-19 diagnosis.  JMS will also work with UNDSS to enable access to the complex i.e. to validate a person’s COVID-19 vaccination status or to grant exceptional access rights.
  • JMS will continue to support all staff, irrespective of their vaccination status.  Their emergency contact numbers (see below) will continue be active 24-7 to enable prompt responses to emergency calls.

 

ii) COVID-19 safety measures at the JMS clinic

 

  • Entry procedures. Mandatory temperature testing, appropriately worn face masks and use of alcohol hand sanitizer.
  • New triage procedures.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, JMS has modified procedures for accessing in-person services to enhance safety for all personnel. The changes include provision of an external waiting area from which screening or triage will be conducted to ascertain if patients or clients have any symptoms of COVID-19 or history of exposure to COVID-19.
  • Temporary isolation for the assessment of persons suspected of having COVID-19. Following such assessments, patients will be directed on the next steps which may include discharge for home isolation or transfer to hospital as necessary.
  • PPE use by JMS medical personnel to protect the clinicians and other personnel from COVID-19 transmission.
  • COVID-19 signage and posters. These are not only available in JMS but will be applied and updated at strategic points throughout the complex.
  • Direct medical and counseling support to UN personnel using safe in-person and remote consultation modalities.

 

iii) Mental health support

 

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has induced a considerable degree of fear and anxiety. This may well be heightened during BTO implementation and individuals may feel especially worried that they could be vulnerable to exposure or infection. There may also be concerns regarding continued remote working, on job security etc. Other people may be concerned for their families, caring for children or elderly parents.
  • The JMS staff counselor’s office, working collaboratively with the counseling and welfare offices of other UN entities, have put together several resources and support arrangements for personnel who may be having difficulties.
  • Arrangements and resources have also been deployed to support management and teams. The UNON staff counselor’s office contacts are also provided below.

 

JMS Emergency contacts:

The JMS 24hr emergency contact 0724 255 378 will remain available to support personnel as is the case currently.

During office hours, extension 25999 is reserved for emergencies.

Emergency email: unon-jms-medical.evacuation@un.org

Booking appointments, consultations: Ext 22267, Email: unon-jms-medical@un.org

General inquiries on COVID-19 vaccination exercise: unon-covid19vaccination-booking@un.org

To report COVID-19 diagnosis or COVID-19 vaccination status, click the link EarthMed Portal

To report COVID-19 diagnosis or COVID-19 vaccination status for those with no access to the Earthmed Portal, send an email to: unon-jms-medical@un.org

UNON Staff counselor’s office: 0793484333 OR  0728961939

To report COVID-19 vaccination status to UNON and your respective entity management: COVID-19 Vaccination reporting

Posted on: 21 Sep 2021